Aplastic anemia treatment is designed to increase the number of healthy cells in your blood (blood count). When your blood counts go up, you are less likely to need blood from a donor (transfusion), your quality of life becomes better and your symptoms are not as bad.
Your doctor will look at several issues to find the best treatment plan for you. These include how severe your symptoms are, your age, other conditions or diseases you have, and whether someone is willing and able to donate matching bone marrow to you (preferably a family member).
There are several treatments and treatment approaches your doctor may consider. These include:
- Supportive care: Consists of therapies to help manage aplastic anemia symptoms. Aimed at increasing blood counts and treat infections, these treatments can include blood transfusions and antibiotics and for certain patients, growth factors or iron chelation.
- Immunosuppressive therapy: Works to lower your body's immune response. It uses medicines that keep the immune system from attacking your bone marrow stem cells. ATG (antithymocyte globulin) and cyclosporine are the medicines typically used. Recently, and drug called eltrombopag (Promacta) has started being used as part of immunosuppressive therapy for aplastic anemia. This drug is a platelet growth factor, but seems to stimulate growth of red cells and white cells too.
- Bone marrow transplantation (BMT): A procedure that replaces your unhealthy blood-forming stem cells with healthy ones from a matched bone marrow donor. BMT is the only potential cure for aplastic anemia. Unfortunately, BMT is an “imperfect cure,” carrying many risks and potential long-term side effects. For many people a BMT is not a good option. When considering BMT, be sure to talk with your doctor about its potential impact on your long-term survival and quality of life when compared with other treatment options.
- Clinical trials: Also called research studies, they may be an option for patients who do not have success with the other treatment options.